That’s it — 4,000 words — two more papers. As I head into the last of my finals, I can count up the number of words I have left to write in my undergraduate career at the University. But how many words have I written for The Cavalier Daily? I couldn’t even begin to count. Sure, I could go back and compile all of the published articles online. But that wouldn’t account for all of the rewrites, edits, cuts and drafts that I struggled with in a caffeine-infused haze throughout the last few years. And it certainly wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all the emails I sent as Sports editor. With the last few words I have left with The Cavalier Daily, some thanks are in order — although the gratitude I have for this publication can’t be contained in just 800 words. Much like I have counted all the words left in my college career, I have always been able to count on the next step in life. So, to The Cavalier Daily — thank you from the little girl who would spend evenings glued to the TV watching baseball with her dad, and who couldn’t sleep when her parents made her go to bed before a game was over. Thank you from the middle school student who was always grateful to get a fall Saturday off from travel soccer in order to travel up to Charlottesville with her grandfather to catch a Virginia football. And one who would relentlessly argue the intricacies of the Red Sox-Yankees and Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalries with her classmates. Thank you from the high school student who fell in love with Coach Tony Bennett’s basketball team, and got the chance to share that love with her family when she stepped, wide-eyed, into a packed John Paul Jones Arena. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to get up close and personal, to be under the bright lights in situations I could never have imagined and to sometimes be one of the few females on the field or in the press conference for postgame interviews. I’ll never forget when I was thrown into covering my first beat, wrestling, where I had to teach myself the ins and outs of the sport from scratch, and would often be the only media at matches, but grew to admire the passion and dedication of Coach Steve Garland and his team. Thank you for giving me the chance to ask questions of the legendary lacrosse coach, Dom Starsia. For allowing me to hear the uplifting words of Coach Bronco Mendenhall after each home football game. For giving me the opportunity to witness Carla Williams named as the first female athletics director at a Power Five school. And for allowing me to be in the same room as several storied ACC basketball coaches and eventual NBA prospects — although I’m still convinced that Bennett is the best of them all. Most importantly, I’m grateful for the unexpected. Thank you for allowing me to have a long conversation with NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith following the events of Aug. 11 and 12, where I learned the true meaning of how it’s about more than just sports. I feel humbled that I given the opportunity to turn that conversation into a story. I’m proud of the sports section that we produced, which wouldn’t have been possible without our dedicated staff. I will look back fondly on how we reported with integrity and respect and told stories about some of Virginia’s most incredible student-athletes. I only hope those who have helped me along the way know how much it all has meant to me. Thank you to Ryan Taylor, who first asked me to take on the wrestling beat when I was just a second-year. To everyone I encountered in my time with the paper, especially Matt Wurzburger, Jacob Hochberger and Robert Elder, for being my mentors and amazing examples of editors. And to Rahul Shah, Alec Dougherty and Jake Blank, who stepped up and helped me immeasurably to ensure that the sports section was a success. When I think back to that little girl, and that middle and high school student, I know that she would have told me that it was all worth it — all of the late nights writing and rewriting — and then attempting to get schoolwork done. Even those frustrating moments, and those print nights when I wouldn’t leave the office until 3 a.m. after covering a 9 p.m. basketball game. It was worth it because I got the chance to do what I only could have dreamed. And this soon-to-be college graduate would have to agree. Now I find myself running out of words. So to those young girls (or boys) staying up past their bedtime to catch the end of a game and finding hope in walk off home runs and buzzer beaters: keep going. It’s worth it. Mariel Messier was the Sports Editor during the 128th term of The Cavalier Daily.